The Benefits and Unanticipated Challenges in the Use of 3D Virtual Learning Environments in the Undergraduate Media Arts Curriculum

The Benefits and Unanticipated Challenges in the Use of 3D Virtual Learning Environments in the Undergraduate Media Arts Curriculum

Denise Wood (University of South Australia, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-822-3.ch014
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Abstract

This chapter describes the benefits as well as the unanticipated challenges in engaging undergraduates in immersive experiences within the 3D virtual environment, Second Life. The chapter draws on trials of three undergraduate courses in which students attended virtual classes and undertook media-related activities in Second Life. International experts conducted synchronous virtual guest presentations in all three courses. Media arts students designed immersive games using Second Life tools and the final-year students created virtual portfolios. The findings from student evaluations suggest both benefits and challenges in the use of 3D virtual environments in the undergraduate curriculum. In discussing these findings, the author challenges assumptions about the readiness of ‘Generation Y’ students to adapt easily to such learning environments. The final section of thechapter outlines proposed strategies for addressing the identified challenges.
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Background

Students entering universities from 2005 onwards are said to represent a new generation of technoliterate ‘Y-ers’ (Krause et al, 2005). This generation, also referred to as ‘Generation Y’, ‘Net Generation’ (Tapscott, Lowry & Ticoll, 1998); ‘Millenials’ (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005); ‘Digital Natives’ (Prensky, 2001) and ‘Homo Zappiens’ (Veen, 2004), have grown up with digital technologies and are said to display particular characteristics including the ability to multi-task, a desire for immediacy, preference for multi-modal learning (pictures, sound and video in addition to text), a need to be socially connected through networked activities, respond best to experiential activities and are interested in social issues (Oblinger, 2008).

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